NRHA member response to devastating Kentucky floods
When catastrophic flooding hit eastern Kentucky in late July, NRHA member Nikki King sprang into action. She lives and works as director of Child Health Investment Partnership in Roanoke, Va., which is two hours away from the flood area – but her family lives in rural areas of Letcher County. The impact of the historic weather event has been nothing short of devastating, killing at least 37 people while others remain missing.
To help out in her hometown of Neon, King has been driving supplies and working her phone tree to get supplies for the community. For most people, the flood wiped out their homes and their livelihoods, so items such as medical and diabetes supplies, hepatitis A and tetanus shots, oxygen tanks, IV fluids and tubing, sutures, gauze, MAT, needle exchange supplies, and more are sorely needed.
“Basically everyone has lost pretty much everything,” King says. “This has to be the most deadly event we’ve had in our community. My cousin and her kids barely got out. Another lady tied her kids together with a vacuum cleaner cord so if they drowned they would find their bodies together.”
Getting supplies to these small Appalachian towns is no easy feat in the aftermath of this disaster. Roads have been completely destroyed and washed away by floodwaters, and King says that since Whitesburg is the county seat, most of the donations are going there, with the surrounding rural areas neglected. FEMA even forgot to classify Neon as a disaster area even though they were probably the hardest hit.
“When I say the road is gone, I don’t just mean it’s underwater – I mean the blacktop is literally gone for miles and miles,” King says. “It’s not like the water is going to go down and there will just be a few potholes to fix – there is no road. It has been reclaimed by nature. People tend to think the water will go down and we’ll be able to fix the roads, but no – the infrastructure will have to be rebuilt from scratch as far as the eye can see.”
Because of the sheer scope of the damage, the recovery will require long-term efforts from residents, volunteers, and local, state, and federal organizations. To help, King suggests the following organizations for monetary donations:
To make a more immediate impact, King suggests sending items or gift cards directly to either Letcher County Central High School (435 Cougar Dr, Whitesburg, KY 41858) or the MacRoberts Community Center (193 Band Mill Rd, McRoberts, KY 41835), which she says are the nexus of the community. King also reports that Appalachian Regional Healthcare, the critical access hospital in Whitesburg, was unaffected by flooding and is serving as a temporary shelter for displaced residents, while Mountain Comprehensive, an NRHA member, is completely flooded out at all their locations.
While the road ahead is long and daunting and in many cases the future is uncertain, King is ultimately optimistic about the future of the town she loves.
“There’s a lot of trauma, but there’s also a lot of resilience,” King says. “I think mountain people generally pride ourselves on our ability to overcome, so this happens to be right in our wheelhouse.”